Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chasidim Dont Learn Chassidus Anymore

(Courtesy of

*Update 8.28*
I realized after a day of thought and a response by a fellow Chasid that the blog wasn't really about the claim that Chasidim dont learn Chassidus, but I critical commentary on Chabad philosophy. My Yetzer Hara one uped me here because this is something I had told myself I wouldn't do anymore. Criticizing other derechs of Judaism does not further my pursuit or bring me closer to Hashem. So I rewrote the blog that ends with a question I hope non Chabad Chassidim who are allowed to use the internet can answer.

Darche Noam has an interesting Chassidic element to it. Three Rabbis who teach there are Chassidish and there are more than a few students inspired by them and the larger part of Chassidus. This is where I heard a most interesting statement made by a Lubavitcher Chasid that is a student at Darche Noam. He told me straight faced and serious that "Chasidim don't learn Chassidus anymore except for Chabad and Breslov." Flabbergasted, I said that it was simply not true and that many Chasidim learn Chassidus. He said to ask anyone and they will agree with his statement which he wishes wasn't true but is a reality none the less. The only Chasidim I am exposed to in Long Beach are Lubavitchers, Breslov, and my Rav who is neither of the two. He is a Polish Chasid, spodik and all. I learn Chassidius with him once or twice a week. I was scared and confused at his words. Does this mean I am a Breslover or a Lubavitcher since I learn Chassidus? Ok, I wasn't scared, I knew that this Baal Teshuva, just like other B.T's (including myself), sometimes believe what a certain person, Rabbi, or group might say and take this as the Emes of all Emes.

Even though I didn't believe him, I was on a mission to figure out if there was some truth into what he had said. First, I went to all the Chassidic Rabbi's who teach at Darche Noam. One is Vizhnitz, another Breslov, and the third seems to lean towards Chassidus in general. The Breslover laughed, the Rabbi who is a general Chasid was confused, but the Vizhnitzer had the best response of them all.

"First of all Chasidim learn Chassidus, there is just different opinions on how you learn Chassidus, when you learn Chassidus, and how often you learn Chassidus. Chasidus is the dessert of Torah. The Gemara is the Cholent. Some Chasidim eat dessert first and then have no room for Cholent. In Vizhnitz we don't learn Chassidus as much until you are older for this reason."

I'm not a Chabad Chasid or any specific Chasid but I try to learn Chassidus daily. If I am successful or not is another story. I know I'm not the only Non-Chabad Chasid learning Chassidus out there because I learn Chasidus with non Lubavitchers. Our last Shabbos in Eretz Yisroel was in Bnei Brak with an Aleksander Chasid who runs the Aleksander Shtiebel off of Rabbi Akiva St. It was one of the most amazing Shabbosim I have ever experienced and it will have its very own post, but I can tell you one thing about Aleksander Chasidim. They learn Chassidus. They learned Yismach Yisrael, by the second Aleksander Rebbe, Rebbe Yerachmiel Yisroel Yitzchok Dancyger after Shachris during Kiddush AND at Shalosh Seudos.

I am convinced that Chasidim are still learning Chassidus, but I wont be able to answer my own question until my wife and I get back to Israel to learn next year. Hopefully till then you can answer my question.

"Do Chassidim still learn Chassidus? and if they dont, what are they learning?"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Learning How Much You Need To Learn

(courtesy of

The main purpose of our trip to Israel was to figure out where we would be learning next year. Our Rabbi recommended the yeshiva/seminary that he learned at with his wife before he recieved smicha, and Baruch Hashem, that we followed his advice. My wife and I have experience learning at other Baal Teshuva yeshivot and seminaries and at least my own experience has shown me that learning Hashkafa comes before Halacha in many cases. This never sat right with me that getting a Black Hat or a Gartel was the goal when one could'nt even learn a sugia of Gemara. Because of this, you have B.T. Bochur A putting down B.T. Bochur B for not keeping Chalav Yisroel or Pas Yisroel when he doesn't know the source for the Halacha, where you can be makel, or the legitimate Heters given by poskim. All Bochur A knows is that a Rabbi told him something and that MUST be the only way. Most B.T yeshivas simply push their minhagim and their interpretations of halacha on impressionable Yidden and cause the B.T to think this is the only way.

This isnt to say anything negative about any B.T. yeshiva, because B"H they bring Jews back to Torah and regardless of how they do it, its bringing Moshiach quicker. Its just not a direction that speaks to me. This is why I can say Darche Noam, is (for the Baal Teshuva) that best Torah Institution on Earth. We learned there for a few weeks and also spent time with many of their Alumni and I noticed two things they all had in common. First they all very much had their own Hashkafa and they were all different types, Chassidic, Litvish, Religious Nationalist, Sephari, and the second thing they had in common was they were all Talmid Chachamim. They knew how to pull halacha out of Gemara and Shulchan Aruch and I'm not talking about the Kitzer. The beautiful thing about Darche Noam is that you learn how to learn. You dont rely on what one Rabbi says, you learn to listen to what one Rabbi has to say and then research yourself to figure out what you should do.

Darche Noam's faculty also is something special as all walks of Yidden teach there. Different types of Chassidic Rabbis, Rabbis with smicha from Mir, even HaGoan Rabbi Kamenetsky's son is on faculty. So for those critical of Darche Noams "lack of" hashkafa will have no problem finding a Rabbi to latch on to and seek for guidance.

Our plan iy"H is to start next summer and go a full year and see where we are at. We went to shuir's at other yeshivas and I had a chevrusa at another and just looking at the people at other yeshivas I knew Darche Noam was where I need to be. At Darche Noam not to many put in the time learning to leave and go clubbing in Tel Aviv at night and no one wakes up at 2pm and daven shachris with their Tefillin on in the Beis Midrash.

Being at the yeshiva really smacked me with a reality check. How much I knew, How much I now know, but more how much I Need to know. Of course we are always learning, but outside of Israel in the darkness of Chutz La'Aretz its really easy to think you know something.

Our experience has brought light back to the darkness and I pray to G-d that he keeps blessing me with the light until we get back to the source in his Holy Land of Eretz Yisroel

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eretz Yisroel 5768

(Courtesy of

My wife and I returned home Wednesday afternoon from a 30 day learning excursion in Eretz Yisroel. What I really mean to say is we left home to come back to Long Beach after 30 days. As a Jew especially once you have experienced the beauty of Israel, realize that Eretz Yisroel is your home, and wherever you are in Galus is not.

Therefore, for the next 30 days iy"H this blog is going to be very busy. I have so much to write about, and every day was so eventful that it deserves its own post. This initial post serves are a launch pad to express the anticipation before and after our experience and all the trials and tribulations we endured to get there.

Getting to Israel is expensive, and when you get there it doesn't stop. With a weak dollar against the shekel you now have 25% less shekels than you did in 2006. Fuel prices adding hundreds onto plane tickets, rent exploding in Jerusalem. Even before we left the Yetzer Hara was deviously making us want to give up. Unexpected financial burdens and lack of financial help was also fuel in the fire of despair. I knew that I must trust in Hashem and that if I did, not only would we get to Israel but regardless of what happened it would all be to our spiritual benefit.

We sought advice from someone and he told us, "learning in Israel for one week is like learning in Chutzla Artez for one month." Now that I sit here after learning in Eretz Yisroel for one month, I can say that I learned more than six months here in America. I have such a different outlook on life and such a strengthened closeness to Hashem, which I pray such a feeling is mutual.

So please check back and give me your thoughts on my thoughts...